Child Abuse

September 9th, 2007 at 10:17 am by David Farrar

Many people are up in arms at the proposal from the Children’s Commissioner to have each family and child’s progress monitored by an authorised provider.

Yes it is a somewhat desperate proposal, but one motivated by how desperately bad our child abuse story is. They’re not online but the Dom Post had a two page spread on all our high profile child murders,what the promised response was each time, and how little has changed.  Some of the solutions have been implemented but having marginal effect, and others have slipped off the screen (Ministers have some accountability for this).

Seriously, I almost cried reading about all those deaths.  To say they are unacceptable is under-stating it by a magnitude.  And you know if it will help stop this barbaric toll, I’ll even consider Kiro’s proposal.

Not that I think her proposal is particularly sound.  I think the high risk factors which make a child more likely to be at risk of child abuse are well enough known, that there is little argument for universal interventions, rather than targeted interventions.  One argument might be that there would be less resistance to targeted interventions if they were universal and some families didn’t think they were being singled out.

But nevertheless universal interventions should be a last resort.  Almost all the cases of child murder we have had have not happened to families unknown to the state.  It doesn’t just happen out of the blue.

I would agree with Dr Kiro that home visitation is important.  I suspect that one will be able to quickly ascertain if a child is at risk, based on a home visit.  If the beer crates are still in the living room, that’s going to be a warning sign for example.

So universal interventions are not the answer, but before we reject that, we should come up with some workable ideas or solutions as alternatives.  Because the status quo of being the most unsafe country in the developed world for children can not continue.

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22 Responses to “Child Abuse”

  1. tim barclay (886 comments) says:

    People getting welfare to raise children should get regular visits as well as other measures to see that the taxpayer who is paying to raise these children is ensuring that children are being raised properly. The alternative is care in foster homes which in many cases is what is happening. But why does the Labour Party yet again wish to reach into middle New Zealand with some bit of state heavy handedness. Middle New Zealand works hard to raise their children, many sacrifice good jobs to do so. Piss Off Labour Party, leave these people alone.

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  2. Spam (586 comments) says:

    Well, its by your own argument, Tim. The middle class are now also getting welfare.

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  3. ray (62 comments) says:

    Well we used to have Plunket check all children on a pretty regular basis

    Where did that go and why can’t we have it back and for the liberals amongst us it was a private organisation with some government funding so it ticks all the boxes
    Thing was it worked, it still exists but needs more funding so instead of reinventing the wheel lets do it

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  4. tim barclay (886 comments) says:

    I can see the Labour Party linking family care payments to regular visits from from lesbian social worker with a freshly minted BA in sociology.

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  5. Sofia (785 comments) says:

    “Hi, gidday, sorry for the interruption – don’t worry about the P-lab or the pot plants or even the stolen goods – nor the drunken orgy that seems to still be going when I tried calling two days ago . . . I’m just here to see if you are bashing your kids”

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  6. Andrew W (1,629 comments) says:

    The growth of nanny state relentlessly continues

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  7. MajorBloodnok (361 comments) says:

    This proposal from Kiro is an admission that the Anti-Smacking Bill (which she vociferously supported) is an abject failure at changing child abuse. Which we all knew it would be.

    National needs to pledge to abolish it.

    There are better ways of addressing this issue. But Labour/Green philosophy precludes them.

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  8. Grant (383 comments) says:

    Folks, none of this is new and for a real eye opener I suggest you go to http://www.occ.org.nz and have a look at Kiro’s “10 year vision for the children and young people of Aotearoa.”
    If you’re looking for a dose of woolly headed, fluffy PC speak complete with a sinister undercurrent, then this document is the place to find it.
    This proposal first came to my attention during the smacking debate and I remember posting on this blog that Kiro’s proposal would be the next step when the child abuse cases didn’t disappear as a result of Bradford’s amendment.
    I wouldnt be suprised if this is given lots of oxygen in the very near future as a way of taking the focus off the EFB, and I will also be surprised if it isnt somehow turned into law before the election. After all any one who doesn’t support such measures is obviously a child beater and doesn’t have their children’s interests at heart.
    G

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  9. ZenTiger (421 comments) says:

    I can’t believe you are saying this DPF.

    Kiro wants to mandate visits to EVERY family to ‘prevent child abuse and deaths’. She described Plunket’s 98% voluntary opt-in rate as a ‘recipe for disaster’.

    What this is leading to is an army of social workers with an ‘at risk’ check-list that will indicate which children need to be removed from parents to ensure they are safe. So what do you think the hit rate will be to save 5 lives a year? One for one? Will these workers assess exactly those children that are going to be killed and save them? Will it be 2 to 1? Will they remove 10 children from parents, and all 5 will be saved and the others – well, who knows what could have happened? Will it be 20 to 1, because the factors that lead to child abuse are going to be fairly common to a pool of people – maori, beneficiary, father not present or has criminal record or drug problem. Young mothers? Wrong kind of food in the cupboard? An aggressive attitude to being ‘interviewed’? Too religious? Major personality conflict with the social worker?

    For some background:

    Background Reading:

    Which country is this: Think of the children

    A look on the lighter side of Kiro’s plan: Leave No Commissioner Behind

    Fisking Dr Kiro: Dr Kiro’s Master Plan

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  10. ManukauMum (134 comments) says:

    I’m with Ray on this one – let’s “beef up” the Plunket service before we get all heavy handed with government programs. More visits from Plunket nurses are useful for monitoring all aspects of child health and development, not just child abuse. i.e. “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure”

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  11. capitald (72 comments) says:

    When used to have this service when I was a child. It was called Plunket

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  12. Ruth (178 comments) says:

    Excellent post David.

    The plunket service was downsized under this govt, and need to be reinstated.

    Zen Tiger your post is alarmist nonsense. Give me the stats of children removed form their parents since Bradford’s bill for example.

    John Key is trending away from this right wing stupidity.

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  13. ZenTiger (421 comments) says:

    Hello Ruth. I may be alarmist, but I’m not sure it is as nonsensensical as you suggest.

    Your challenge to produce stats for a policy change just a few months on is obviously a little difficult – these issues take a little time to come to light.

    I also have no confidence that any current court cases would be properly reported, given the privacy laws and the desire the parents would have not to ‘rock the boat’ with the authorities whilst they are begging to get their children back.

    But those cases will come, given the example of Sweden’s foster care statistics after their smacking law changes.

    I don’t disagree with your point about Plunket. Services supplied by Plunket and voluntarily accepted have been invaluable to many families over the years, and didn’t require Dr Kiro to supplant them with mandatory tracking.

    Still, maybe the foster care market will take off. Wont that be a good thing (providing we ignore the many reports of foster care abuse coming to light in NZ. I don’t want to sound alarmist, but I have knowledge of a whole pile of lawsuits lining up for next year …. )

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  14. Insolent Prick (417 comments) says:

    I was outraged with Kiro’s proposal.

    It completely misses the point, as usual. Just as with the government’s enormously expensive anti-smacking advertising, you have to be living on another planet to believe that child abuse, and family violence, is a problem endemic throughout society.

    It isn’t, and any kind of limp-wristed bullshit from socialists wanting to impose universal solutions that are outrageously expensive, and alienate large chunks of society who aren’t causing any problems, must be resisted.

    There are some fairly common denominators amongst most violence against children: the child is almost always living in a broken home, with intergenerational welfare dependency, suffers frequent unaccounted “accidents”, with both parents having some kind of substance abuse problems.

    Far more intervention needs to take place in the homes where those risk factors are present. 8 years of pledging to stamp out abuse of children, and far more money blown down the drain by Labour on universal programmes that miss the problem, and we still have a children’s commissioner advocating more universal intervention.

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  15. Lindsay (135 comments) says:

    I’ve blogged my response to this.

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  16. Anthony (737 comments) says:

    I think one of the ways to prevent such schemes becoming mired in beaurocracy is to let independent agencies such as Plunket, Bernados, etc to do as much as possible.

    Why is it that it is quite clear who is committing most of the crime, etc but it is very difficult to do anything without infringing on privacy? What is wrong with repeat criminals being followed around and pulled up the moment they do something wrong – maybe that should be happening during parole.

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  17. Yvette (2,591 comments) says:

    Sofia’s . . .
    “Hi, gidday, sorry for the interruption – don’t worry about the P-lab or the pot plants or even the stolen goods – nor the drunken orgy that seems to still be going when I tried calling two days ago . . . I’m just here to see if you are bashing your kids”
    . . . is a trite, cheap remark.

    I have read Zen Tiger’s reaction to Kiro’s plan and checked the background reading, as Sofia should, to see how it can work with the harden stereotype ‘family’ she envisages . . .

    TE ARA TUKUTUKU NGA WHANAUNGATANGA O NGA TAMARIKI: WEAVING PATHWAYS TO WELLBEING – AN INTEGRATED FRAMEWORK FOR CHILDREN AND THEIR
    FAMILIES

    ” . . .The framework expects that individual plans, owned by the child and held by the family, will be developed in partnership with children and families, using strengths-based approaches in a community development paradigm.”

    [so the family will have a personal file that they will have custody of]

    ” For the framework to function effectively, those involved with a child or family will need to have access to information that helps them to make better decisions. A sound information base is essential if we are going to make sure that every child is safe and protected, enjoys the resources to take an active role in society, and understands and enjoys their human rights.”

    [but the family has the file? or they have a file but not THE file, or something . . .]

    This will work.

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  18. virginblogger (97 comments) says:

    Here we go again – a blanket wonderous ‘solution’- once again the people not doing the abuse get put into the same pot as those that are. What a dilution of effort not to mention a costly exercise.

    Why can’t we focus on the problem here and target the at risk children. In my view any long-term beneficiary or young mother on benefit should be visited as part of a condition of benefit. We know that parenting skills are woefully low and weekly visits may help prevent a defenceless child being abused.

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  19. gd (2,286 comments) says:

    virginblogger Agree In the cases so far as others have posted the so called authorities knew there were problems but refused to take effective action until too late. This move will see middle NZ targeted more waste of resources because the PC morons dont want to be seen targeting the problem. They might actually fix it and then they wouldnt have a job to do.

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  20. dave (985 comments) says:

    Ive blogged my response also

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  21. libertyscott (355 comments) says:

    “Yes it is a somewhat desperate proposal, but one motivated by how desperately bad our child abuse story is.”

    OUR? What kids are you abusing David? What kids aren’t you protecting?

    “And you know if it will help stop this barbaric toll, I’ll even consider Kiro’s proposal.”

    Why stop there? Why not have video cameras in every home that the police could switch on if they were suspicious, it will help too. In fact, why doesn’t the state require all parents to be licenced that would help, so would sterilising anyone convicted of a crime against a child.

    THE ENDS DO NOT JUSTIFY THE MEANS.

    “One argument might be that there would be less resistance to targeted interventions if they were universal and some families didn’t think they were being singled out.”

    Of course not, singling out people whose children are constantly truant, families whose members are known to the Police, people with convictions for violent and sexual offences would be SO fucking unfair – we should subject all law abiding, loving, peaceful, non-bludging parents to Orwellian screening so we don’t offend the guilty.

    While we’re at it let’s assume there are violent and sexual offenders everywhere, we should screen everyone’s mail and internet use, and give the Police the right to enter any property if suspecting someone of a crime, and detain them without charge.

    Unfortunately the real solution is intensive intervention to incentivise/punish failing parents/guardians and to remove the children if need be. Incentives and punishments can only be administered through the criminal justice/welfare system, and the willingness to remove children has been watered down by nonsense that says children are best placed being with their useless progenitors.

    I’m part of a generation adopted out because the mother had the sense to know that she wasn’t well placed as a teenager to raise a child well – whilst far from the ideal solution, it would be less interventionist that setting up the police state to govern parenting.

    DPF you should be ashamed of yourself for not damning this disturbing nightmare of a policy. Your statement that “So universal interventions are not the answer, but before we reject that, we should come up with some workable ideas or solutions as alternatives.”

    No – you can reject ideas that are rubbish without having better ones. I don’t have to accept that the way to prevent unwanted pregnancy is to make sex outside marriage illegal, just because no one else has thought of a better idea.

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  22. adc (520 comments) says:

    Yvette, you obviously have no kids, or you wouldn’t consider having a government formulated mandated “Plan” imposed on how you bring them up.

    And who is going to pay for all this?

    Sounds to me just like part of their bigger political plan, make all kids neo-labourites from birth to keep the party in perpetual power.

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